Back at the beginning of summer, I was reading all kinds of crazy-good reviews about this book. People were calling it twisty and heartbreaking and so, so amazing. So I downloaded it on my Kindle and deemed it a "summer read". Except I didn't get to it. Which is so typically me. But my Books, Babes and Bordeaux Book Club saved the day and picked it for the September read.
Synopsis: It is England 1943...the heat of WWII...when Maddie and Queenie meet and instantly become best friends. Both are strong, courageous souls...Maddie is a pilot who can fix anything from a motorbike to an airplane engine, and Queenie is a spy with great hair, manicured nails and a royal heritage. Neither accept the idea of jobs being solely for men, and both have the tenacity and spunk of a platoon of men combined. One night, when Maddie is flying Queenie to her next mission, the aircraft is hit and the plane goes down. Queenie parachutes to safety, but is captured by the Gestapo and taken to the local HQ for interrogation and torture.
In order to extend her life, Queenie agrees to write an account of her background, and reveal codes and secrets only known to her. She recounts the story of her friendship with Maddie, harrowing stories of danger, deception, and just how far two best friends will go for each other, interspersed with information about air fields and the latest technology. She will trade anything for one more day, a warm sweater, and the chance not to be burned or have her fingernails ripped out.
But as we progress through the story, we learn how just smart these two girls really are, the stakes and intensity being raised every few pages, and begin to wonder if there is more to it all than a straightforward tale of survival.
My thoughts: I wouldn't come right out and say this was just like "Gone Girl" or "Fingersmith", where it is way too easy to spoil a plot by saying anything, but it is close. I've given you just a tiny taste of what this book is all about, but there is so much more below the surface.
I really struggled through the first half of the book. It was interesting, I guess, but a bit slow and dense with facts about war things. Plus it was confusing - I wasn't sure what was going on. (I know more than a few of our book club members didn't even get past this point.) But then the pace ramps up, Wein throws in a twist, cranks up the speed a little more, completely pulls the rug out from under you, and off you go. Prepare to stay up past your bedtime at this point in order to finish.
I absolutely LOVED the two girls in the story. They were completely opposite from each other in every way but their moxie. These were butt-kickers, these girls. They would not be denied their dream. They were tough and fearless, but girlish when they let down their guard around each other. I was utterly invested in them.
And what you have heard about this book? Yes, there are twists, and it will make you want to re-read the thing. But I honestly was waiting for something bigger and more mind-blowing than what it was. Don't get me wrong, the ending was pretty amazing, but was a case of mismanaged expectations. And when I read the last page, I was scared that I had missed something HUGE. That I was too thick in the brain to grasp it all (it WAS late when I finished). The plot is so squirrelly that I doubted myself. So my best advice is...to read it, first of all, because it is good. Be patient with the build-up. Try to leave the expectations at the door. And be prepared to read it again.
4 out of 5 stars